Hope

“I’ll never forget the trouble, the utter lostness, the taste of ashes, the poison I’ve swallowed. I remember it all – oh, how well I remember – the feeling of hitting the bottom. But there’s one other thing I remember, and remembering, I keep a grip on hope.

God’s loyal love couldn’t have run out, his merciful love couldn’t have dried up. They’re created new every morning. How great your faithfulness! I’m sticking with God (I say it over and over). He’s all I’ve got left.

God proves to be good to the man who passionately waits, to the woman who diligently seeks. It’s a good thing to quietly hope, quietly hope for help from God. It’s a good thing when you’re young to stick it out through the hard times.”

Lamentations 3:19-27 – The Message

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Changes

I have been jotting down changes I have noticed since praying with my friend.  Here are the lists:

I have been able to forgive my Dad for:

  • Robbing me of my purity and innocence.
  • Making himself my first love.
  • Destroying the opportunity for my husband to be my first love.
  • Destroying my ability to be truly intimate in all ways.
  • Favoring my sister – after forgiving I was led to break my bondage to that family pattern both with my family of origin and with my existing family.
  • Making me dependent on him in very unhealthy ways.
  • Destroying my ability to be myself.
  • Not being a man or father I could respect .
  • Destroying my love for my name – hearing your father longingly murmuring your name from the darkness of his bedroom will do that…
  • Not being the father I needed.
  • Taking away my ability to experience God in the reality and truth of who He is as my Heavenly Father.

Fortunately, over the years God has been in the process of taking that which was intended for evil and working it for good as only He can. (Genesis 50:20, Romans 8:28-29)  He has been healing me, and I have been growing into understanding and experiencing God and life as my Creator meant it to be.  He has been bringing me out of the darkness created by my earthly father into the light that is my Heavenly Father. (Isaiah 9:2, Ephesians 5:8, Colossians 1:13)

Differences in the daily stuff:

  • Physical therapy has revealed a great difference in my body.  My muscles have become looser, more relaxed, and have responded more quickly to my therapist’s manipulation.
  • The above discovery gave rise to the following question.  Did the back pain I continued to feel following my last therapy session have more to do with our desk chair than abuse (oh, happy thought)?  Since that consideration came to mind, we have bought a new chair and my back, shoulders and arms feel much better!  (Wouldn’t you know that a cheaper chair is better for me physically than a big, fancy, mesh, more expensive chair…which we originally bought for my comfort while working on the computer…go figure…)
  • I am feeling more love for Bmy husband and am relating to him more freely.
  • My attitudes are more upbeat, and I am not as critical towards people and life in general.
  • I am more deeply moved by both joy and sorrow, which to me means I am living more in the now rather than being controlled by the past.
  • Here are a couple of things that occurred which were previously unheard of…one day I stayed in my pajamas until after lunch…I don’t know if I have ever done that…another day I slept so long I ate breakfast at noon. 
  • Writing has come more easily.
  • I am calmer and more joyful and am definitely laughing more.
  • A gear has shifted in my mind or a puzzle piece has fallen into place resulting in my perceiving the physical world in a slightly different way.  Somehow things are a bit clearer, colors brighter and everything appears to be more intensely real.

Now I know there will always be things about me that will need to be changed, and there wil be more battles to be fought (at least until I get to heaven).  Yet, I am so thankful for what my Lord has done now, and no matter what the future brings (figurative biting of the nails), I know He will work it for good in my life, to conform me to the image of His Son.  So, onward and upward…or as the unicorn cried in C.S. Lewis’ book, The Last Battle, as he sprang forward into the beauty of New Narnia, “Come further up, come further in!”

Praying together

I love my friend.  Playfully poking fun at myself and my situation, I shuffled towards her to give her a hug with my shoulders slumped and head bowed in an exaggerated expression of self-pity.  We empathetically laughed together, each happy to be with someone who understands….understands the need to laugh in the middle of pain, understands the need for hugs and unconditional love, understands the importance of walking with someone through their struggles instead of trying to make their discomfort go away by skirting the core issues.

I so looked forward to getting together with her.  We share similar stories of rape, only under different circumstances, and we both are experiencing God’s healing process.  God has gifted us to each other, and we desire to seek only Him and desire only to have Him work in our lives.  I can be honest with her and she with me.  We know we can’t fix each other, but we both know the God who can.

As always, we shared what had been happening in our lives since last getting together.  (I thank God for her listening ear and her acceptance.)  Then we bowed our heads and praised our God.   I need to clarify…she praised our God, and I listened.  Sometimes, when my heart is heavy and praise is difficult, it is good to let someone else’s words carry my spirit to the Throne of Grace. 

My friend then lifted me to the Lord, and we opened our hearts to the Great Physician for whatever He had for us that day.  As she prayed, she told me the word “purify” was repeating itself over and over again in her mind.  (We verbalize what God reveals as we pray, and He also often speaks to both of us in pictures. That is how we know what each other sees and hears, and that also will explain the exchanges that follow.)  I explained to her that I saw an open wound which had been inflicted on my body by the board (see my previous post The board revealed), and she claimed that only God could heal that injury.  At the same time she also asked God to dissolve the board so it would no longer torture me, and in my mind’s eye I saw it dissipate.  God then sutured the wound, and it too disappeared.  After years of being pressed into a hunched, slightly v-shaped posture I saw my body straightening and gaining health.

Following that, God showed her the next thing He was doing; He was clothing me with a white robe and placing a white mesh shawl on my head, symbols of purification.  As she shared, I was experiencing God’s work within; a whirlwind (God’s Spirit) was inside, cleansing the sickness, the bad and the evil from me.  It spun up my body…purifying me.  (Ironically, my name means “pure one”, although I have never felt pure in my life.)  Realization dawned.  When my father abused me, he covered me and filled me with all his negative attributes, his hatred, anger, impurity, and foulness…smothering me with who he was and prohibiting my own personal growth.  God was cleaning out the evil and replacing it with His goodness, so I could reflect His beauty instead of the warped person that was my father.

The final picture God gave my friend was that of a lush green tree, standing in front of me approximately 20 feet away, covered with healthy red fruit.  Its fruit was being blown towards me, and I was absorbing it into my chest; I was receiving it with arms opened wide and a joyous smile on my face.  Behind the tree stood Jesus, also smiling with joy as His power caused all this goodness to flow.  Together my friend and I voiced the words “fruit of the Spirit”, and she laughed at this simultaneous gift of understanding.  God was filling my heart. 

Let it be known, though, that in the physical realm there was not a smile on my face.  I was weeping, telling God that I had never wanted this, the circumstances of my life, the pain and suffering.  Telling God how I was jealous of those whose young lives had been nurtured by loving parents, whose lives had not been racked with pain.  I asked for forgiveness for not wanting what I was given; then my friend said “but, now you do”.  My spirit rebelled against those words, for I still did not want it.  What could she possibly have meant?  Then she said, “Receive it in faith.”  And, I told God I would by faith receive His gift from this tree, even though I didn’t understand. 

Again, I would like to say that everything immediately was hunky-dory and wonderful, but it was not.  Yes, God was at work in me, but in some ways I was afraid to both accept the work and accept that it was actually happening.  Years of suffering and dashed hopes does that to you.  The Scriptures say, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” (Proverbs 13:12)  (Having just read that, I now see that the tree we saw together was the tree of life, and its fruit was fulfilling the longing of my heart.  Thank you, Jesus.)  Could this burden that I have been carrying since toddlerhood actually be lifted?  Hoping against hope, and refusing to pretend that life was now absolutely grand, I honestly accepted my doubts and fears (as God would have me do…He knows they are there anyway) but still accepted the work God was doing in me.  And such is spiritual life on this earth.  Trusting in the unseen instead of the seen, hoping for what has not yet come (Hebrews 11:1)….the tug- of-war between our physical experience and that which God has revealed to us in His Word. (Galatians 2:20)

Reflecting

Looking back was always difficult for me; so difficult that I rarely did it.  It seemed I would either gaze into the bleak past of my family of origin, or I would review the regrets I had in raising my children and in how I had related to my husband throughout the years.  I ran from my memories, anticipated with dread the unknown future and lived in turmoil in the present.

Last week, after a few consecutive nights of waking with daytime concerns on my mind, an unbidden reflection rose to my consciousness, and contrary to much of my experience when contemplating the years gone by, this thought brought hope.  I was pleased to note that even though my sleep was disturbed by unresolved issues, after turning them over in my mind and lifting them to my Lord in prayer, I had drifted back into the blessing of sleep.  Even more significant, fear was not triggered when I was aroused from slumber, and thus panic was not bred there as I lay on my pillow and did not cause racing thoughts to spiral out of control.  How different this was from the beginning of my healing journey when nights were feared and waking in the dark caused terror to run rampant!  I could see that God was indeed changing me from the inside out and bringing healing where there once were festering wounds. Considering the past and comparing it to the present has reinforced the trust I have in my Maker; a trust which has been wrought in me through the furnace of life.  It has undergirded the knowledge I have of my heavenly Father as my Redeemer and the Lover of my Soul; though small in comparison to His incomprehensible infinity, this knowledge is a gift, growing in me as my Savior dissipates the darkness of my understanding with His marvelous light.

Therefore, memories have brought me hope…who would have thought that possible?  Deep expressions of praise well up from my soul as I ponder the wonder of His work and the changes that have been forged within me. And, even though the unknown future can be frightening, the unresolved present unsettling and the past filled with dark shadows, I can still lean on, trust in and rely on the God of the past, present and future, the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End, for He has redeemed the past, is at work in the present and has already won the victory in the future.

All that is left is me…

Recently, I began feeling unfocused, frustrated and drained….again.  Hmmmm, said I to myself, wasn’t that supposed to be over when I left my administrative assistant position?  A quote by Eric Hoffer explains it well, “The feeling of being hurried is not usually the result of living a full life and having no time.  It is, on the contrary, born of a vague fear that we are wasting our life.  When we do not do the one thing we ought to do, we have not time for anything else – we are the busiest people in the world.”  Even though I had quit my job over a year ago, taking a step off the metaphorical cliff into the unknown land of “developing other gifts”, and, because of that, technically not particularly “hurried”, here I was once more, filling up my time with important and good things but not doing the best thing…that which I was being called to do.

So, last week I withdrew from all but one of my involvements to make time to write a book.  Ah, now I will have peace at last, I thought, and I will experience fulfillment and energy as I write about the healing work God has done and is doing in my life.  Following a week of “writing focus”, I am beginning to realize how simplistic and unrealistic my expectations were.  Writing a book is daunting, especially since the only other writing I have done is this blog.  Opening up my heart for anyone to see, making myself vulnerable before the world is frightening….and as an introvert, it is a task from which I am somewhat repelled.  Focus and inspiration comes and goes; writing, so far, has not come easily to me, and I often find myself wanting to do anything but putting words on the page.

There is also another aspect to this which was unexpected; an aspect that in the long run will contribute to the book, but in the short run has more to do with my personal walk with God.  I have discovered that as I have laid aside most of my involvements, I am just left with me.  No longer can I hide from myself in busyness; no longer am I able to gather bits of self-esteem from the things I used to do; no longer can I blame others for my aches and pains or try to change people and circumstances into someone or something that makes me feel good.  My empty calendar has also cleared life’s stage of many of my props and crutches, and I am finding myself becoming acutely aware that “here I am.”  As someone once said, “wherever you go, there you are”, and…well, that says it all. 

My guess is that any victim of abuse will understand when I say I have spent much of my life running from pain, expending much effort and energy to avoid facing the searing facts and effects of what was done to me.  My circumstances shaped and formed me and became an integral part of who I am, thus running from the effects of abuse becomes the same as running from myself.  I became the horror; I became the pain.  Thankfully all the healing God has done in me over the last 28 years has made me appear less appalling in my eyes than I used to be.  There was a time when facing myself would have been like standing on the edge of a bottomless, black pit (think of the abyss into which Gandalf fell in the movie, The Fellowship of the Ring), and that pit was me; all-consuming fear and panic would force me to turn and run.  I could not do it.

Now, I can rejoice that through God’s healing the pit is closing, and its rim is no longer the slippery, muddy morass it once was.  Grass is growing there, and sun and warmth embrace me where darkness and bone chilling cold at one time lived.  I am becoming at peace with who I am…the person who received much pain in her life but who also has received much mercy, grace and love. 

So here I am with all my hopes and dreams, weaknesses and strengths, quirks and foibles, unanswered questions and unresolved issues, regrets and triumphs, a lingering, niggling fear of who I am and areas of hidden darkness that still need to be brought into the light of God’s love.   In reality, it is not “just me” here, for which I am eternally grateful.  My God is with me and is closer than the air I breathe, communing with me, loving me, laughing and crying with me and supplying all my needs “according to His riches in glory.” (Philippians 4:19)  He and I are in this together, and I can know, no matter what happens with this book, no matter where this process takes me, no matter what healing needs to take place, I am safe within His arms, He carries me and He loves me.

Quietly

Quietly her breath whispered gently in my ear; the soft newness of her cheek caressed mine.  Wrapped in love, singing of God’s goodness we swayed in tender unison…this little peanut, sweet pea, pumpkin pie…this little grandbaby of mine asleep on my shoulder.  How can there be such beauty and love in this world?  How can one’s heart be so filled?  How can the night be so peaceful and kind?   A gift suspended in time; a moment held forever…

The terror – onward in victory – part 11

The day after being freed from the leech of fear, memories of my dad’s sexual abuse began to come to the forefront of my mind.  These did not come as previous memories had; I was not observing theatrical vignettes from afar, detached from events with little emotion and sense of experience.  This time I was there, the suffering of my two-six year old child, the assault on her senses, the violence …her fear…were all mine.   That is all you need to know, dear reader, except that God protected me through it.  As a muffler protects our ears from the raw explosions of a running car’s engine, so my God absorbed much of the unbridled physical force and suffocating weight of my dad’s unmitigated, self-absorbed, maltreatment of his daughter.

What purpose was served by reliving such horror?  Again, I found the purpose was to forgive.  (Forgiveness seems to be one of the objectives of this tunnel journey.)   Because my experiences were beyond that which I could bear, my battered child coped by disassociating and forgetting…my first eight years were a blank in my mind; what I knew was information given to me by others…people who had their own biases, their own interpretations, their own agendas for the past.  I needed to rediscover my experiences, my reactions and how it all affected me to expose those unknowns from long ago which still controlled my present.  To recognize my own pain and hatred was the only way to reach the point of being able to truly forgive.  .

After these difficult days passed and I reached the end of this leg of my journey (which was the place of forgiveness), I awoke the next morning noticeably more relaxed with my arms and legs feeling a bit like cooked spaghetti (al dente, of course…).  Bodily tension has generally been part of my mode for sleep; my arms are tightly curled with my legs and back taut as though anticipating the night’s suffering.  Tension still is with me in the morning; my short, quick anxious breaths give lie to an inner turmoil.  Surprised enjoyment followed that morning’s waking freedom…what luxurious relief for my stressed body!  Light and peace also came to my soul and spirit providing re-creation for my being, a mini vacation from the strain of my internal travels.  Two nights and a day of tranquility undisturbed by stirred memories…two nights and a day of blue skies with no heavy clouds…ah, bliss!  Thank You God for R & R in the battle for healing…thank You for a time of restoration and revitalization.  Thank You God for the pause that refreshes, for bringing me to a bright spacious place before I again enter the dark, narrow valley.  You are so good…all of the time…You are good.